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TPG Reader Gman sent me a message on Facebook to ask about getting Hilton elite status:
“I’m an IHG guy, and enjoy the perks of Platinum status. However, from time to time I stay with Hilton even though I have no status. What credit card would you recommend to earn high-level status in the Honors program?”
Hotel elite status can be a great asset for frequent travelers. I’ve gotten a lot of value out of my Starwood Platinum status and various levels of Hyatt status during the years. Even if you can’t reach the top tier, having some degree of elite status can make your stays a bit more pleasant. Fortunately, there are some pretty easy and inexpensive ways to earn status if you can’t meet the normal requirements.
Gman is interested in picking up Hilton status for his occasional stays there, and he has several options. Although a status match or challenge probably won’t help in the long term, there are four co-branded Hilton credit cards (two from Citi and two from Amex), each of which offers elite status at some level.
The lower-tier Hilton Honors Card from American Express and the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature Card both offer complimentary Silver status, which comes with pretty basic benefits like a 15% bonus on base points earned during your stay, and access to fifth night free awards. Neither card has an annual fee.
If you’re looking for superior benefits, both the Hilton Honors Surpass Card from American Express and the Citi Hilton HHonors Reserve Card offer complimentary Gold status, which is among the more rewarding mid-tier hotel elite levels out there. Along with a 25% bonus on base points, you’ll get late checkout, room upgrades (when available) and complimentary breakfast at full-service properties.
I think Gold status offers a lot of value even for travelers who don’t bank many Hilton stays, but if you want to aim higher, these last two cards can still help. You can earn Hilton Diamond status when you spend $40,000 on either card in a calendar year. That’s a steep price to pay if you’re only an occasional guest, but the option is there if you end up preferring Hilton in the long run.
Both of the premium cards offer some decent bonus spending categories. Although the Amex Surpass Card has the lower annual fee ($75 compared to $95), I think the Citi Hilton Reserve offers the best value. Not only does it come with a strong sign-up bonus of two free weekend nights after you spend $2,500 in the first four months, but also you can earn another free weekend night on your account anniversary when you spend $10,000 on the card in a year. It also comes with no foreign transaction fees, making it by far the better option for travel abroad.
If you’d rather avoid an annual fee, at the moment I’d go with the Citi Hilton HHonors Visa Signature, since it’s currently offering an increased sign-up bonus of 75,000 points after you spend $2,000 in the first three months. That won’t go as far as two free weekend nights, but it’s much better than the standard bonus of 40,000 points.
Know before you go.
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